Green Delta Capital, Investment Banking, And Life’s Lessons: An Interview With Md. Rafiqul Islam, MD, and CEO, Green Delta Capital Limited

Green Delta Capital, Investment Banking, And Life’s Lessons: An Interview With Md. Rafiqul Islam, MD, and CEO, Green Delta Capital Limited

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Md. Rafiqul Islam is the Managing Director and CEO of Green Delta Capital Limited. Founded in 2011, Green Delta Capital has become one of the fast growing Investment Banks in Bangladesh within a short period of time. To date, they have signed and executed corporate investment banking deals with clients over USD $900 million in total and have built a strong investors pool from Europe, Middle East, Asia, and some parts of the US. Mr. Islam, who joined the company as the Chief Investment Officer in 2011, has been instrumental in taking the company where it is today. Prior to joining GDCL, he worked at BRAC EPL where he was part of the team that formed structured finance division, investment banking division, and treasury division.

In Today’s Interview You Will Learn:

1.) How Rafiqul Islam made his way into the world of investment banking and built a successful career?

2.) How has Green Delta Capital grown to become a fast-growing investment bank in Bangladesh and the growth strategies it used over the years?

3) What are the services GDCL offers and how it operates as an organization and what you can learn from it in terms of designing your own organization? What are the challenges for GDCL today? What is the ambition of GDCL going forward?

3.) How does Rafiqul Islam view the importance of building a great team in the ultimate success of a company? How does he operate as the CEO of the company and what does his to-do list like on a daily basis?

4.) What has Mr. Islam found to be the important roles of a CEO of an early stage company? How to deal with the growth challenges?

5) How does Mr. Islam view the state of investment banking in Bangladesh? How does he view the role of GDCL in the industry? Where does he see the industry going in the near future?

6) How does Mr. Islam view the state of FDI and ease of doing business in Bangladesh? How can Bangladesh improve in both areas by making the process easier and efficient?

5.) What are the most important lessons Mr. Islam learned from his journey? Why should we develop an awareness of our finite time and be mindful of spending the time that we have?

Future Startup

Thank you for agreeing to do this interview. What is your background? Could you please tell us about your journey to what you are doing today? What sort of ambitions did you have growing up?

Rafiqul Islam

I was born and brought in the suburban town of Chandpur where I stayed till my higher secondary education. I didn’t really study at any nationally famous school in my childhood but these were reputed in my suburban town. Like many other middle-class kids, I had a pretty regular but an exciting childhood. Enjoyed the enormous freedom of suburban life. We had a true childhood in many ways that is hard for today’s kids to even imagine. I liked to study, but more than that I liked to spend time with my friends and I started bunking class when I was in class 4 as I loved to hang out with my friends. Although I used to bunk classes, I was not unambitious. Since my childhood, I remember having this urge to do something good with my life. I always wanted to be successful and had never been confused about that. This was because of my parents. They taught me to be simple, humble and knowledgeable. And they were my inspiration.

I did my bachelor’s in business and completed my MBA from East West University. Since my siblings were very talented students, I was always under a fair amount of pressure to secure good grades. But I never wanted to score good grades just for the sake of it. I wanted to learn and thus I became a voracious reader from an early age. I used to read many non-academic books. My performance was what you might say brilliant in school but I have never really ranked top in a public exam because I was reluctant to memorize things.

At one point I realized that I need to focus on what I’m best at, or what I can be best at. That realization changed my life in a major way. I found out that I was good at talking to people and solving complex problems. People and complex tasks always interest me. In addition, I also nurtured a passion for finance. But unfortunately, I had never been very good at mathematics. That’s why I didn’t go to the science stream in ninth grade and chose arts instead.

That year, I took accounting as an optional course. Something interesting, and quite funny in retrospect, happened in the first class. The teacher came and asked us to draw a trial balance. Then he told us to write a figure in the inner column and another figure in the outer column. I didn’t quite hear and I didn’t understand what he was saying and mistook column for “Golam” (laugh). And instead of drawing a trial balance table, I wrote his exact words, as a quote, on my paper. After the class, the teacher asked us to show him our copies. When he saw mine, he was shocked. Naturally, he gave me a good beating. I was sad at his behavior and decided not to attend that class anymore without understanding the accounting. When I didn’t go to the class the following day, the teacher called my parents and informed them of my absence. And I was again beaten up. This time at home. In the third day, I attended the class, largely out of fear. After doing a few classes, I found accounting to be one of the toughest courses. I became afraid that I would never be able to pass it.

One of my senior friends, who was an undergrad student at that time, was actually majoring in accounting at that time. So, I approached him in my sadness. Luckily, he was helpful and helped me with understanding the basic ideas that underlie the concept of accounting. Once I began to grasp the basics, I realized that accounting is logic. And that was, as I know, the end of my fear of accounting.

Growing up, I wanted to be the best at what I do. I wanted to be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in an ocean. That actually motivated me to become exceptional. I think excellence springs from knowledge. Because of that, I tried to learn from everything in life.

I told myself that I have to pursue knowledge and wisdom. I was also aware that you might have good knowledge of something but wisdom always comes from experience. Therefore, I began my career in early stage compare to my friends where my first job was in the readymade garments industry in 2002 with a salary of Tk. 3,400 salary. By the time, I completed my bachelor’s degree. I did my MBA from East-West University after a few years of job experience.

Prior to that, I never thought of going into the RMG sector. I always believed that I have to be independent and I don’t like to depend on others. What happened was that I was doing my CMA (at ICMAB) qualifications at that time which I didn’t continue later. After passing level 1, I got an opportunity to work at a 100-percent export-oriented apparel company. I joined there as a finance executive which intersect with my own interests. Initially, I worked in the accounts division but later shifted to the production division. There I was assigned to minimize the wastage in the production process, and maximize the production, thereby maximizing the profit. I had to work day and night in the factory. I had to learn how the machines work and understand the behavior of frontline employees. But I didn’t want to settle in the RMG industry. In 2004, I decided to move to the telecom industry. I applied to several telco giants such as Grameenphone, Banglalink (then called Orascom Telecom), and Aktel. Fortunately, I got a call each one of them for an interview. Eventually, I chose Banglalink considering the things it had to offer. The company was going through a lot of changes. Initially, it was called Sheba Telecom. Then came Orascom and took over Sheba’s business. These major events provided a great learning opportunity and I was on the lookout for learning opportunities. So, I joined Banglalink in February 2005. I worked in multiple departments. It taught me a lot about human resource management, process and project management, administrative control, corporate treasury including cash management, corporate finance, and many other things. I got best employee award from Banglalink CEO in 2005 and “Thank You” appreciation certificate for my hard work, late night, sacrificing my family time for the company. Those were early days of Banglalink and we had to work almost 15-17 hours every day.

After working for five years at Banglalink, I left in 2009 and joined BRAC EPL in December 2009. It was again an early stage operation. I was part of the team that formed the structured finance division, investment banking division, and treasury division.

From there I finally moved to Green Delta Capital (GDCL) in mid-2011.

To be honest, in my life, I have never dreamt of joining an already profitable company before. In the past, I had joined companies which had just begun its operation and I played a small role in taking those companies to the matured stage. This was even true for BRAC EPL Investments and it is true for GDCL too. Now I know very well I am a changemaker, I know how to achieve double-digit growth of a company.

When I joined GDCL, it had just got its license to operate as a full-fledged merchant bank. There were only three people working here. We had to build it from the scratch. From there, we have traveled a long way to be among the leading merchant banks in the country. At present we do small-scale initial public offerings. In the corporate investment banking space, which is at the core of our existence, we are one of the top-ranking institutions.

I joined GDCL as the Chief Investment Officer. I had a vision for the company myself toward which I have worked since then. Merchant banks in Bangladesh have largely been involved in traditional activities until these days. Most of the merchant banks only perform conventional services like portfolio management, IPO and so on. A handful of them offers advisory service. We wanted to do something different. From the early days, we wanted to introduce innovative hybrid instrument packages such as corporate investment banking services with customized solutions for the clients. However, before we could do that, we had to build our organizational infrastructure, technical capacity, and an efficient workforce. We had to create a resource pool for people in the company from where they can draw and grow. With that objective in mind, we realized that it’d be a tough game if we don’t have an international network as far as concern about global investors to help us.

I also found out that commercial banks in Bangladesh are carrying out the jobs that should have been done by investment banks. Commercial banks are lending money to the corporates. These are long-term loans which can’t be good for the banks. Given the short-term nature of their own liabilities, they can’t sustain their inclusive business growth with this practice of long-term lending such as 6 to 10 years.

Considering this issue and the way corporations are moving upward, investment banks have become essential in Bangladesh. In fact, I had this realization in 2009 when I joined BRAC EPL. The global economy had just recovered from the 2008 recession and Bangladesh needed long-term funding sources. The need hasn’t died a bit. I had these ideas and realizations in my mind when I came to GDCL. After joining, we began to talk to corporate clients and managing long-term financing for their projects from the global market.

As an organization, we work in a unique way. We maintain a structured process for working with our corporate clients. We listen to what they want and assess their plan. Then we design a contract for them so that they get what they aim for. Each contract is custom-made, meaning they are not generic. We do not leverage our financials; rather we support them as an advisor by raising foreign currency debt and direct equity from global markets as well as from domestic markets.

At one point I realized that I should focus on what I’m best at, or what I can be best at. That realization changed my life in a major way. I found out that I was good at talking to people and solving complex problems. People and complex tasks always interest me.

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Future Startup

Could you please tell us more about your early days at GDCL? What was the organization like and what were your priorities?

Rafiqul Islam

The journey at GDCL has so far been pretty exciting. I joined GDCL as the Chief Investment Officer (CIO). Initially, it took me two to three months to get a grip on the whole scenario. First I had to learn how the business works and the credentials and strengths of my teammates.

We also had the challenge of preparing the market as well. Not many people knew about us. Public relations, as a result, was of great importance. We needed to build our brand. As a CIO, I had to establish our credentials in the market because that matters greatly in our line of business.

There was a lot of other limitations at the outset. We prepared a comprehensive plan considering them and particularly concentrated on the sustainability of the company. In the beginning, we designed some products, signed IPO contracts with a few clients, and made some capital investments which was required as part of our licensing agreement.

We received positive feedback when we approached the market with our plan. There was a risk and uncertainty that people won’t do business with such a new company. We leveraged our parent company Green Delta’s brand image which helped us in growth. And it continues to help us even these days.

Being said that, it was not easy to attract clients. This is a high-stakes market and the work we do are quite sensitive in nature. In many instances, it was difficult to get access to many companies. In the first three years, we served about 20 corporations. To get to 20, we had to pitch several hundred companies.

We first wanted to test the waters, meaning who were interested in investing in Bangladesh in the international markets. For the last seven years, we have run a lot of campaigns and talked to many international investors. Interestingly, we found out that many of them didn’t know about the country before we approached them, let alone what it had to offer investment-wise. Now we have a strong network of international investors who take interest in Bangladesh market.

We have taken our job very seriously from day one. We believe that we can only build a great brand by providing high-quality service to our both clients and investors. We believe we carry our country image while we are working in global markets. Therefore, our every deal is unique and contribute to the sustainable growth of our clients.

Future Startup

What were the major challenges in the early years?

Rafiqul Islam

The first challenge was attracting companies. To overcome those challenges, we leveraged our parent company’s brand image, as I have just mentioned, and marketed our own credentials. We have always tried to provide the best service to our customers. Client’s welfare has always been our key priority. These things helped us to make a name in the market. We always aspire to be on the top of our game. And we want to do that through our unique and innovative services.

I was promoted and appointed as the CEO of GDCL in 2015. Since then I have tried to reshape our entire game plan for our business growth and creating sustainable resource pool in the organization. We have also begun to focus on the global market as well. You’d be surprised to know that we are the only financial institution in the country who provide advisory services in foreign markets, such as – Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and China.

Future Startup

How is GDCL doing now? Could you please give us an overview of the company?

Rafiqul Islam

As of now, we have signed and executed corporate investment banking deals with clients worth USD $900+ million in total. Our investor network is growing every day. We have a strong investors pool from Europe, Middle East, Asia, and some parts of the US.

Recently, we have opened up a division to address the increasing importance of public-private partnership investment. In fact, we are one of the 14 financial institutions that have signed a contract with local PPP authority. Under this division, we are offering services like hybrid debt instruments products. These are long-term funding services.

We have another division called Equity Origination that issues rights and IPOs. We also have a portfolio division where we manage share market trading, and a merger and acquisition unit.

Our biggest team is in corporate investment namely Corporate Institutional Investment Banking team, a highly experienced with best professional staffs. They are highly skilled, and they know how to execute a deal and provide customized solutions. The activates of this team is advising corporates, raising long-term debt and short-term funding from global markets as well as from domestic sources. They work with, mostly, foreign investors for both debt and equity. Their major activities are raising foreign currency debts, global M&A deals (though currently, we are advising a Chinese company for M&A in outside Bangladesh), Issuance of Bonds, Issuance of Preference Share, ABS and Hybridge Equity-Linked Debt products, which is similar to mezzanine financing.

Our employees are highly qualified individuals. We provide them with rigorous training. They know exactly how to serve a client well and how to approach investors. Knowledge is critical for the success in this sector. A lot depends on the people who work with us. We have always put a huge emphasis on having great people which have helped us to build a highly skilled team.

As I said earlier, one of our key objectives is to help our clients build sustainable inclusive businesses growth. Our estimates suggest that we assisted to create so far more than 2,500 employment opportunities through our different types of services. We consider it a noteworthy achievement since we are contributing to the greater good.

Sector-wise, we focus mainly on corporate investment, infrastructure, power and renewable energy, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, FMCG, RMG, and other manufacturing units. Furthermore, we are providing long-term loans to banks and non-banking financial institutions to grow their asset base.

Since GDCL’s inception, we have raised global debts amounting to USD $650 million for our clients and local debts amounting to more than Tk. 11 billion. It’s safe to say now that all the blue-chip companies in Bangladesh is or has been our client.

We have done some exciting and extraordinary work with our clients. For example, we once raised USD 30.5 million for one of top corporate for their river terminal set up which would reduce their carbon footprint. That was the first time in Bangladesh when a private entity took steps against environmental pollution. It was a risky project but we did it.

We are always trying innovative ideas. Recently, we are working for a company with Sukuk (Islamic bond) issuance. We have so many Islamic banks in Bangladesh who have large customer bases. But they don’t provide long-term funding through bonds which is a common practice internationally. So, there are generally two types of bonds issued by banks. In Shariah banking terminology, it is called Sukuk (Islamic bond).

Many commercial banks issue the regular bonds. But Islamic banks are still not trading in Sukuk (Islamic bond) in Bangladesh. It is because we don’t have any regulation for it yet. We are contemplating about issuing Sukuk bonds from our company. Our parent company is the trustee and GDCL is the advisor and issue manager of the project. We have prepared a deed of Tk. 1 billion in line with the current regulation. We have applied to the SEC and hope to get the approval shortly and it will create a new avenue for Islamic Finance.

We have been working hard on this project. Since it’s a less familiar subject, we had to consult traditional and Islamic banking experts about Sukuk issuance. They helped us design the product. We haven’t yet begun to release it to the market, but we are getting positive responses from the market already.

The third instance is really exceptional. We have helped Akij Group of Companies to fully acquire a Malaysian company called Robina Resources. This is the first time a Bangladesh company has acquired a foreign company entirely. It was a challenging project for us. We were the exclusive lead adviser and fundraiser to Akij Group in the acquisition. We contributed to fundraising, deal structuring, and value chain creation. Bangladesh Bank deserves our heartfelt thanks for approving the offshore transfer of USD 20 million as equity from Bangladesh to acquire this Malaysian company. Another USD 58 million was raised in Malaysia. The Robina Resources acquisition is one of the most complex deals of its kinds in Bangladesh. We are glad to pull off such a deal as our and country’s first ever cross-border M&A deal which has set a new milestone for the Bangladesh economy.

We are currently doing a few power project deals including solar power project. In fact, we mandated lead advisor to the transaction for a power plant that will produce more than 255+ MW electricity.

In our global footprint, we are doing a fantastic job, that I must have to say. In the Nepal market, we have recently partnered with a tourism company as their lead adviser. We are trying to raising debt funds for them. In China, we are currently working on an M&A deal, USD Bond Issuance, etc for Chinese companies. We can consider these activities as service export which is a growing business for us.

As for portfolio management, we have a fairly large team mainly focusing on the discretionary portfolio. We manage portfolios for people who don’t have the leisure to look after them. Our Portfolio team is fully backed by our dedicated research team.

Our Equity Origination team is currently doing few IPO deals which we are expecting to be in public very shortly.

We have taken our job very seriously from day one. We believe that we can only build a great brand by providing high-quality service to both our clients and investors. We believe we carry our country image while we are working in global markets. Therefore, our every deal is unique and contribute to the sustainable growth of our clients.

Future Startup

You have helped many large companies to raise capital. How does it work? What kind of efforts and negotiation goes into making these deals happen?

Rafiqul Islam

In the case of Corporate Investment Banking, we take a few things into consideration. First, we figure out how the cost of a fund can be minimized for the client. If that cost is reduced, the client can do her/his business more economically and generate more revenue.

Secondly, we ensure inclusive growth and whether the deal is bankable or not. Any business can have a large pool of resource and a steady financial growth, but you may not be sustainable in the long run. To that end, we help companies to utilize the resources in an efficient manner. We pitch the deal and show our credentials to the clients. We do proper assessment/ Due-Diligence before taking on any deals to find out whether this is a bankable deal or not. If it is not a bankable deal we offer our corporate advisory service to prepare them for the future. We usually offer customized solutions to our valued clients. Since we clients are mostly top-tier company in Bangladesh so we have to create the value chain for them and this is our utmost priority too.

After a successful mandate, we prepare our investor teaser for global distribution among the potential foreign investors.

I believe that our investment banking industry should work more on hybrid instruments. Our merchant banks should also get ready to meet the long-term funding demand in the local market as our economy is moving towards an uptrend. `

In that respect, bonds can play a vital role. But there should be a few changes first. One, the government should offer incentives to the investors in the bond market. For example, new and innovative types of bonds, such as GDP-linked bonds, green bonds for eco-friendly projects, SME bonds, can be issued. Then, tax rebates can be provisioned for bondholders on their coupon/investment income. Such as Preference Shareholders have the tax benefits which is 20% of the final tax. I believe all bondholders should have the similar tax benefits, though zero coupon bond has some tax benefits for corporate and insurance companies, it is only for zero coupons. But I would suggest it should be for all bondholders so that the bond market can grow. Such measures can attract people to buy bonds and help businesses to grow.

Future Startup

Could you please give us an insight into your work as the CEO of Green Delta Capital? How do you approach your work on a day-to-day basis?

Rafiqul Islam

Being the chief executive, I primarily delegate responsibilities to my teammates. Then I prioritize my works based on its importance to the organization. I’m more concerned about the long-term growth of the company and the development of the people who work here and of course, the sustainable profitability of the company.

My experience in this field tells me that we need to be highly skilled, good communication skill, and in-depth knowledge to grow our business. I’ve advised my people to always put the customers first. They are our partners who we need to keep satisfied with our products and services. Moreover, we should keep strong credentials and create trustworthiness in our global investors’ pool who are into the foreign currency debt and equity investors. The counterparties may be local or overseas. Through our knowledge and hard work, we have to prove to them that we provide the best kind of services. We know exactly what the requirement of investors is as well as our client’s demand.

A significant portion of my time goes into ensuring smooth operation and a world-class service for our customers and other stakeholders by mobilizing the team.

I’m more concerned about the long-term growth of the company and the development of the people who work here and of-course, the sustainable profitability of the company.

Future Startup

How does your revenue model work?

Rafiqul Islam

I can’t discuss every detail of our model. But I can give you a general idea. The one key stream of our revenue come from fee-based income. We approach a client, do a meeting, and try to get our head around their expectations. Taking those into consideration, we incorporate all the data we have on that client into our model and do a sensitivity analysis to determine what’s the best outcome for them. We then convey the results of that analysis and advise them to take corrective actions. We provide mathematical evidence to support our suggestions. This is where we are different from other companies. Our way of work makes us exceptional.

Due to the quality approach to our work, we have been contacted by foreign companies as well. Recently, we’ve been approached by a few Chinese companies. I have been to China last month and urged the investors there to invest in Bangladesh. And now we are working with these Chinese companies to explore opportunities in Bangladesh and other countries.

Future Startup

What are the challenges for Green Delta Capital now?

Rafiqul Islam

First, human resource is a challenge. We need people who are capable of doing things that we aspire to do. We invest in people by offering them ample learning opportunities. We need more people in our company with the right track record and proper skill set but we have found there is a scarcity of quality resources in the market.

The other challenge comes from the market. The local market, in my opinion, is not mature yet which means we can’t essentially push the growth that we aim to do. Commercial banks sometimes pose a challenge for us. As I have mentioned earlier, they provide long-term loans to companies, which is bad for them because their liabilities are mostly short-term in nature. And in the past commercial bank was performing investment banking activities in our country. Therefore, the perception or environment of the market is a challenge to grow.

At the end of each day, I look back and reflect on my day: what I did, the mistakes I made, and what I could have done better and so on. Reflect and ensure that your tomorrows are always better than your yesterdays.

Future Startup

What are your plans going forward?

Rafiqul Islam

For the last couple of years, our aim was to achieve a steady growth. We have been able to achieve that goal to some extent. We have some exciting plans next year and so on. We plan to bring more foreign direct investments to Bangladesh. We have been able to build a network of investors across many countries who take interest in Bangladesh and other markets that we work.

By 2021, we want to grow our footprint in the SAARC countries and in a few promising economies, such as – China, Malaysia, and Vietnam in terms of our corporate advisory services which you can address as service export.

We have trained our people to realize these objectives. A few divisional units are looking after such corporate advisory services. It’s a long process but it’ll benefit both us and the country’s economy.

Future Startup

Making and attracting FDI both are tough jobs in Bangladesh. There are a lot of regulatory hassles associated with it. What’s your take on that?

Rafiqul Islam

I think making FDI deals in Bangladesh is actually simple. What makes it complex is the lack of information. The people who are liable for providing necessary information to foreign investors often fail to give them the access.

The information can be of many types – market data, economic data, regulatory data, and so on. For instance, a lot of foreign investors don’t know that they can own 100% share of a company in Bangladesh and they would not need any special approval to bring the equity here. Other licensing requirements, which were very time-consuming to procure before, can be issued under the One Stop Service Act passed already under BIDA. Although BIDA is yet to bring OSS into action.

On the regulatory end, I believe BIDA should work more and engage with the private sector more often and at a different level. They should focus on what are they are assigned to do. More work needs to be done around making the process simple and time and cost efficient.

Future Startup

In general, it’s tough to do business in Bangladesh. Bangladesh has ranked 176th in World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index. It is expensive and exhausting. What’s your take on that?

Rafiqul Islam

I actually beg to differ here. I think this ranking, although very important for the overall impression of the global markets, is more theoretical in nature. I have worked in many countries which rank high in the index compared to our country, but the real situation is much worse than us. For example, in some of the South Asian countries, debt holders have to wait for more than a year sometimes where the obligor need to get the approval from different ministries apart from their respective central bank to get a mortgage or corporate guarantee kind of things. But the same thing would take only a few weeks in Bangladesh.

Having said that, our doing business environment has to improve. You may not need an explanation for many of the challenges that people go through while opening a business in Bangladesh. The process needs to be streamlined, simple, easy and cost-efficient. I think the authority needs to identify the gaps and challenges in the system and take meaningful initiatives to address those gaps.

Future Startup

What is your take on the banking industry given that the sector has been going through a crisis for a while now?

Rafiqul Islam

Let me ask you a question, do you think our banking industry operates with a long-term strategy or a medium-term strategy? It seems, at least from the outside, the industry operates with an ad-hoc strategy. When there is money, banks aggressively look out for borrowers and give out more loans. Today, we have a liquidity crisis in the banks; and when we have a shortage of money, we go for deposits. This is not actually how a country’s banking sector should work.

The industry, as a whole, should have a strategy for short-term, mid-term and long-term as well as a strategy to deal with a potential crisis. I hope it will come from the central bank. Everyone is talking about the problems, but not about the solution. We need to learn from these situations and act accordingly.

Future Startup

What are some lessons you’ve learned so far?

Rafiqul Islam

There is no alternative to commitment, hard work, and passion. With a combination of these three things, you can make impossible happen.

Whatever you do, be sincerely passionate about it. Learn from everyone and be positive. The willingness to learn and then really investing time to learn can change your life.

Communication is something that we do on a daily basis. A lot depends on our ability to communicate effectively with other human beings. Developing strong communication skills is very important.

Be mindful of how you spend your time. Personally, at the end of each day, I look back and reflect on my day: what I did, the mistakes I made, and what I could have done better and so on. Reflect and ensure that your tomorrows are always better than your yesterdays.

Future Startup

What should be the priorities of a CEO of an early-stage company?

Rafiqul Islam

Early-stage companies should concentrate on finding out the opportunities first and then developing an effective strategy to exploit that opportunity. Then comes finding the right kind of people to run the business. People eventually enable a business to exploit the opportunities that the market has to offer. Invest time and effort in building a great team. Focus on sales and building capacity which would allow you to attract customers.

The market is very dynamic and changing constantly, you have to respond quickly to whatever opportunity or challenge you want to address. Your reaction time should be short. Finally, always have a contingency plan after assessing the risk factors.

Don’t waste time. Time is life and once gone, you can never regain the lost time. Be mindful of how you spend your days because that’s essentially how your life will turn out. Life is short, it will be gone before you know it. Develop an awareness around it and utilize the time that you have.

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Future Startup

What advice would you give to your 20-years old self?

Rafiqul Islam

Invest in yourself to be a better person and in growing your knowledge. If you are passionate about a field or aspire to make a difference in a field, explore it in its depth and seek to understand it.

Find out what you’re good at, focus and work hard. Never try to do/get everything overnight. We have to show our wisdom and it won’t come instinctively; it comes from experiences.

Every one of us routinely wastes time. We do things that we should not. We live a sub-optimal life. If you consider the economic value of the time that you waste on a monthly basis, you would be surprised and sad. Don’t waste time. Time is life and once gone, you can never regain the lost time. Be mindful of how you spend your days because that’s essentially how your life will turn out.

Life is short, it will be gone before you know it. Develop an awareness around it and utilize the time that you have.

Interview by Ruhul Kader, Transcription by Rahatil Ashekan

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